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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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such restrictions for the poor mean economic losses in the form of reductions both in labor and in security for their old age.
Suppose, however, that the gross poverty in a given population group were virtually eliminated. What other ethical objections to the use of compulsion would remain? The most conspicuous argument against compulsion is that it is incompatible with the freedom to pursue our own happiness and forge our own destiny. How cogent is this argument?
Questions of Freedom
Freedom refers in part to the relative absence of government interference and compulsion concerning those actions that are not harmful to the public interest. It refers also to what we sometimes call equality of opportunity, that is, the opportunity to determine and change one's economic, social, and political status within one's society. Freedom in both the senses I have specified is as strong a value as survival itself. People will risk death to obtain it for themselves and others. They will not trade it off completely for some other actual or potential benefit. Moreover, freedom serves public interests as well as private ones. Some freedom of speech, for example, is an essential component of any society; it is a necessary prerequisite to social intercourse.
However, freedom is not always incompatible with compulsion. One of the ways in which freedom is secured through compulsory regulations is illustrated by the laws governing traffic. Without such laws, it is difficult to imagine how the freedom to drive private automobiles in crowded areas could be maintained. Compulsory education also guarantees and enhances freedom. Compulsion can prevent great harm both to individuals and to society. One example is compulsory vaccination to prevent epidemics, as well as individual suffering. In all of these examples, certain choices are taken away from the individual, and yet his total freedom is increased. Would compulsion in limiting the number of one's children be comparable to any of these examples? To answer this question, one must try to characterize more nearly the kind of decision involved in choosing whether or not to have children and how many to have.
In Plato's Symposium, Socrates notes that there are three ways in which people can try to satisfy their deep longing for immortality (26). One way is to have children. Another is to commit a deed or deeds noble and heroic enough to receive the attention of one's community and become a part of its collective memory. A third way is that of scholarly pursuit and authorship. Each attempt to achieve immortality depends for its success upon the receptivity and support of one's community. Children, therefore, provide a deeply gratifying link to the human community and to the future. Decisions about how we will use our reproductive powers are decisions about our own future and about our own contribution to the future of the humanethods are ethically unacceptable J'or reasons that will be discussed later.